Friday, January 20, 2012

Baseball's All Overrated Team

To see the underrated team, go here

C Geovany Soto-The 2008 NL Rookie of the Year has been up and down over the last four years.  Just look at his rollercoaster OPS over that span.
Throw in the fact that he's played more than 125 games exactly once, and you have a volatile, injury prone backstop who struck out almost three times as often as he walked in 2011.  On the bright side, he has great power for a catcher and at 29 is squarely in his prime.

Honorable Mention: Joe Mauer

Howard isn't a top slugger anymore
1B Ryan Howard-Much like Mark Teixeira, his strong power numbers have helped mask his regression.  He posted career lows in slugging percentage and OPS last year, strikes out a and his numbers in 2010 and 2011 were way down from his 2006-'09 peak when he paced the majors in RBI three times, home runs twice, and finished in the top five of the MVP voting every year.  The big slugger got a late start to his career because of Jim Thome and is already 32.  While he's still a great hitter he isn't nearly as good as people think he is.  His days of 40 dingers and 130 ribbies look long gone.

Honorable Mention: Eric Hosmer

2B Gordon Beckham-Was great in his 2009 debut, but since then has deteriorated badly with a .241/.306/.356 line during his age 23 and 24 seasons.  When Beckham is supposed to be improving, he has gone the other way by regressing across the board.  His power and walk rates are down, while his strikeouts are up.  The White Sox can't afford to pencil him in for 150 games in 2012 unless he makes a drastic turnaround, but since he's only 25 there's still some rebound potential here.  He could be a late bloomer like Alex Gordon.

Honorable Mention: Rickie Weeks

3B Alex Rodriguez-Has regressed for four consecutive seasons now, and it looks like age, injuries, and steroids are taking their toll.  After averaging 159 games played from 2001 through 2007, Rodriguez has become much more familiar with the DL lately and hasn't topped 138 games since.  He doesn't run anymore and his plate discipline has suffered as well.  A-Rod can still be an effective third baseman when healthy, but at 36 he's no longer in the discussion as one of the best players in the game. 

Honorable Mention: David Wright

SS Jimmy Rollins-The parallel between J-Roll and A-Rod, baseball's 2007 MVPs, are alarming. Rollin's numbers havealso  plummeted since he earned the hardware, and the once durable shortstop who averaged 157 games played from in the previous seven seasons has managed just 130 over the past four.  He's put up a .261/.,325/.412 line over that span has produced an underwhelming 94 OPS+.  His counting stats were always gaudy because he got 650 at-bats at the top of a stacked Phillies lineup every year, but he and his teammates are graying around the temples.  He's the baseball equivalent of a high volume shooter (think Brandon Jennings) who needs a lot of touches to be effective on offense because he isn't efficient.  I was really tempted to put Derek Jeter here, but resisted the urge.

Honorable Mention: Derek Jeter

Ichiro failed to make the All-Star team or win a Gold Glove
for the first time in a subpar 2011
OF Ichiro Suzuki-Back-to-back down years suggest that age (38) and overuse (only once has he failed to play at least 157 games) have finally caught up to Seattle's fan favorite.  His high batting averages and hit totals were always overrated because about 80 percent of his base knocks were measly singles, and even though he owns a career .326 average he's only posted an OBP over .400 once in his eleven seasons (in 2004, when he batted .372 and set the single season record with 262 hits).  For me, the most telling statistic is that he's won just two batting titles despite leading the bigs in hits seven times.

OF Jacoby Ellsbury-His monster 2011 campaign notwithstanding, Ellsbury had never showed signs of being an MVP candidate and had been somewhat of a disappointment in Boston .  He stole a ton of bases (including home against the Yankees) but didn't do much else; from 2008 through 2010 batted .285/.339/.395 with an 89 OPS+, 17 home runs and 112 RBI.  For those attempting to project him for this year, I suggest splitting the difference between last season and 2009 (he missed almost all of 2010 with cracked ribs).  Anyone expecting a repeat of or improvement upon last year will be sorely disappointed.

OF Jayson Werth-Got a big boost from the lineup and ballpark in Philly, and now he's been exposed for what he really is.  He's a great complementary player that can contribute in all facets of the game, but not someone to build your team around.  Werth can't anchor a lineup and isn't worth $126 million over seven years.

Honorable Mentions: Vernon Wells, Josh Hamilton, Jason Heyward, Nelson Cruz, Desmond Jennings

DH Michael Young-His high batting averages are nice, but with eleven home runs and 2.4 bWAR last year he was not deserving of the serious MVP support he received.  Like Ichiro, his high batting averages lose value because he doesn't walk enough; his .350 career OBP is on the low side for a .304 hitter.  The career Ranger has also benefitted from the Ballpark in Arlington (he's a .283/.327/.410 hitter everywhere else) and is always surrounded by talented hitters.

Honorable Mention: Jesus Montero

A Cy Young winner? Absolutely. MVP winner? Not so fast.
SP Justin Verlander-Great pitcher had a phenomenal season last year, but it wasn't as special as everyone made it out to be.  Guys like Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Jake Peavy, Johan Santana have been just as dominant at different points during the last decade, when offensive levels were much higher, yet have zero MVPs combined.  Verlander, on the other hand, pitched in the cavernous Comerica Park against a weak AL Central with league-wide offense dialed back to 1992 levels.  He was the most overhyped player of 2011 and I don't think he deserved the Most Valuable Player award. 

SP Josh Beckett-Too inconsistent and not durable enough; in 2006, 2008 and 2010 he fell far short of expectations, and has eclipsed 200 innings only three times in his eleven seasons.  He had just one great season (his last one) in Florida, and has received Cy Young votes in only two seasons. Like Curt Schilling, his career is enhanced in the public mind by an impressive postseason track record.

SP Zack Greinke-Since winning the 2009 AL Cy Young award has gone 20-20 with an ERA over four.  In fairness, last year his xFIP was 2.56 and his FIP was 2.98, so he endured his fair share of bad luck.  Other than 2009, he's been a good, but not great, starting pitcher who looks like more of a number two than an ace.

Nova overachieved in 2011
SP Ivan Nova-Perfect example of why a win-loss record can be deceiving.  He went 16-4 last year and finished fourth in the Rookie of the year voting, but failed to reach 100 strikeouts and posted a 1.33 WHIP.  An ordinary pitcher that benefits from a strong lineup that provides plenty of run support, he remains a likely regression candidate for 2012 (expect an ERA over four with a record closer to 13-10).  Most Yankees are overrated as soon as they put on the pinstripes (think Andy Pettitte and Nick Swisher), and Nova is no exception.

SP Ubaldo Jimenez-Fell apart in the second half of 2010 and finished with some brutal numbers last year; a 4.68 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and a 10-13 record.  Upon closer review, it seems bad luck played a part his dismal performance as his 3.67 FIP and  3.71 xFIP suggest, and his peripherals were in line with his career numbers.  Nonetheless, his dominant first half of 2010 when he led the league in winning percentage and finished third in the Cy Young voting appears to be an aberration.  See Greinke, Zack.

SP Francisco Liriano-Can't stay healthy and has topped 30 starts and 140 innings just once (2010) in his career. Holds a career 4.19 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 101 ERA+.  Considering that he now calls Target Field home and plays in the NL Central, his numbers should be much better.  The Twins need him to sustain the flashes of potential he displayed in 2006 and 2010.

Honorable Mentions: Jeremy Hellickson, Chad Billingsley, Clay Buchholz

RP Francisco Rodriguez-The man who saved 62 games in 2008 has seen his saves decline every year since, and his 1.26 WHIP since 2007 is on the high side for a closer.  Then again, he's not even a closer anymore; he's John Axford's setup man.  Was never as good his his eye-popping saves total suggested, though.

Honorable Mention: Aroldis Chapman

CL Chris Perez-He saved 36 games for the Indians last year, but his strikeout rate (barely better than Nova's and terrible for relievers, who should strike out a batter per inning) is half of what it was in 2009 and he's an average reliever at best.  In addition, his 3.32 ERA and 1.21 WHIP aren't great, and an xFIP of 5.01 says he was extremely lucky last year.

Honorable Mention: Brian Wilson

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